How much does leadership go into winning football?
Yeah, you know, that's one of the components of a successful team, certainly. But Jim Leyland had a great quote about leadership and talent. He said, you know. I'll take talent. (laughs) The only reason I'm using that illustration is when things are going well, teams have good leadership. They have good chemistry. We're getting leadership from our guys right now, and we have good chemistry. We're just not playing as good as we would like to play in a consistent basis. That, to me, is the issue right now.
Is that sort of like with Drew when people are picking on him for being demonstrative on the field when things aren't going well?
Well, yeah, it's the same thing. When a coach gets fired, which I've been around a few of those, back when I was in the NFL anytime a coach got fired, he was too stern. He was too tough. The flip side was that this guy is a players' coach. He wasn't stern enough. And then they would always hire the opposite. Maybe not always, but often, they would say this is what they need. And then three years later, the quotes would be flip flopped.
The bottom line is if you're doing well on the field, life is rosy to the outside world. When you're not doing well, jeez, what is the problem. You know, intangibles, chemistry, leadership, injuries, etc. So, I don't get too caught up in all of that. We're just trying to focus on what we think we can improve upon. We're not putting anybody on the couch right now or any of that stuff. We're just trying to get better.
Have you had a chance to talk to Coach Mac at all the last couple of weeks?
We've exchanged messages. I'll say that for sure. As you might well imagine, I'm extremely supportive of Dan. I'm a friend of Dan's. I like to think I'm a friend. I think we consider each other friends. I think he has done a fantastic job there. What I told him, he didn't need to hear from me. I know how he operates.
But obviously, you were trying to be encouraging and supportive.
I mean, yeah, obviously it's a topic of discussion. I think Dan and all of us in coaching worry about what you're doing. He's done a pretty good job from my vantage point, but that's just one person's opinion. I have a lot of respect for him. Personally is one thing, but he's done a terrific job for Iowa State.
Two years ago, Drew was the fiery guy, cool and fun. Now, it's not that way.
Yeah, and if we had lost a couple more in 2003, than Nathan Chandler would not have been demonstrative enough. The bottom line is if things aren't going real well, everything is wrong. I don't mean that disrespectfully, that's just the nature of sports. If things are going well, guys could be walking around undressed around campus and people would be saying, isn't that funny? Isn't that cute? You can think of some programs where, boy, that's interesting, but they're winning so it's fine. That's really the nature of our society. (Someone tries to guess a West Coast team) No. I was thinking of a different geography. They've been in the news the last year, too. (My guess is Auburn). I
I remember an article in the ‘80s where a certain program was chronicled in a national publication as having some off of the field issues, but they were very successful on the field. I brought that up to my mentor. I said, boy this is going to hurt their recruiting. He laughed and said, what are you talking about> I said, this is going to kill their recruiting. Look at that, it's a national publication and it's fairly detailed. He said, look at their record. He was right again. That's why he's my mentor. They continued to win. That's the reality of what we do. All of us realize that, I think.
That seems to go back to how you guys are playing, like there's something unplugged there. Is something unplugged there? Is something missing in execution?
Obviously, something is. That point I was trying to make about you get what you deserve, it wasn't a fluke Saturday. We got out executed. We got out everythinged; coached, right on down through. So, when that happens, something is definitely unplugged. Is it because of someone's personality? I doubt that. It's a collective and complex equation. It's not just one little area. If it was, it would be easy to correct it.
How have the turnovers affected you guys?
A great illustrator was when we played Michigan, I think they fumbled once. I don't know what they've done since. Wisconsin is right at their break even point right now. But that's a good place to start right there. That's one of the stats that I do think holds some water. Typically, that usually a good indicator. When you're turning it over, it makes it a bigger challenge. It was a 14-point swing the other day on turnovers. We gave them the ball on the six and then we're knocking on the door at the other end. Those things are costly.
Coach Fitzgerald was kind of thrust into it. Bret has had a rapid ascension. Are you surprised with how quick he rose to head coach?
It's two totally different situation as far as with Pat's situation. He's done an amazing job there, where as Bret, the way that Barry did it, Bret had a year to prepare for it. That was really a smart approach. Sitting here today, it looks like Barry's plan was pretty good. It looked like he knew what he was doing. He was confident that he knew what he was doing. Nobody had a better vantage point of Bret in a leadership role than Barry did. So, you could argue that he had pretty god vision on that one. It's really worked out. I've read that Bret said that he and Barry met weekly last year during the season and discussed things from that perspective. That's a nice way to prepare. And then Bret got the keys to the car and he's done a great job with it.
Have you ever had any close calls on the sidelines like Paterno?
Not like that one. It's so scary. I remember there was a coach Paul Martelle at Saint Louis University High School, that's the worse one I've seen. It was kind of a similar circumstance where he couldn't get out of the way. He was in a wheel chair I don't know how many months. That was bad. He at that time was in his 60s, I think.
I only got cleaned out once. It was at Denver. My butt was to the field. I was kind of crouched down diagramming some stuff. It sounded like a herd of horses was coming. I looked up and all five of the (offensive linemen) their eyes were wide open. And boom, I got blown up from behind. Once they knew I was OK and I got up, they just laughed at me. I said, thanks a lot for the tip. They didn't get it on film, though. At least that was the end of that one.
With bigger named recruits coming in than in the past, have you had to deal with them an differently with a different attitude?
Not really. Once they get here, they're playing for Iowa. It's the same with walk-ons, once you get here you get judged on what you're doing here. Northwestern wasn't really too impressed with our statistics, our recent tradition, all that stuff. They could care less what bowl game we were in last year. And that's the great thing about sports. It's what you're doing today. That's the good thing about it. That's one of the messages we pass on, certainly. And it works the other way, too. There have been a lot of walk-ons that have been pretty good players.
You said there are no quick fixes. I'm guessing that there's a percentage of you that's big picturing.
Oh yeah, even when things are going well I'm always…that's got to be part of your job.
Has the percentage maybe grown in the last few weeks?
Oh, yeah, any time things aren't going the way you like, certainly…but it hasn't grown a huge amount. Right now, what's really important is this week. That's really where you have to keep your focus. And when you're doing that, there's really now an awful lot of time. That's more for Sunday mornings, Saturday nights. The rest of the time you're kind of worried about the challenge ahead of you.
Do you and the coaches worry about bowl stuff or do you play and let it sort itself out?
Bowls, they're important, but they're so far back on…and I hope they are for our players, too. It's so far out of our minds right now. I hope I'm speaking for everybody. We'll be honored to go anywhere right now. Wherever we go, we're going to be happy about it. I'll promise you that. That's way down the list. Big picture stuff trumps that stuff right now. We'll figure all that out when the last game is over. Somebody is going to tell us where to go, and we'll be thrilled to death. We hope they still want us.
Is there something to every year chasing Ohio State and Michigan and then keeping the rest of the pack in the rearview mirror? That's kind of where you guys have situated yourselves the last few years.
Yeah, I'll say this, I read in someone's column or article is that our last 14 games we're 7-7. That right now is the reality of our situation. Big picture wise, we've done very well. The reality is that we're 7-7 in 14 ballgames. I'm not good at math, but that's .500. So, that's where we're at. That's the ground we stand on right now.
What's Drew's legacy going to be?
It's like all of our seniors and really this football team. There is so much right now that is unwritten. We've obviously had some disappointment. We've had some good moments, but we've had some disappointment and some hardship that we've endured. The book is still open. We'll all know more about that evaluation here in a while. To me, that's good news.
You talk about short term. Is there anything you can do about the wide receiver drops?
We just have to keep working. We really don't have a senior leader at the receiver position. We just have to play through it.
When Drew was yelling at teammates when he was a sophomore and a junior, it was kind of a cool thing. People bought into it. Now it seems like he's sort of bullyish when younger guys are making mistakes.
That's perception. He's hoping to get it right, too. He just wants to get it right. Our inexperience in some positions has made it a little more difficult to execute. And I'm not putting it on anybody. Everybody has some ownership in the whole thing. Drew hasn't played perfect, either. Nobody has. We haven't coached perfect. The thing we have to do is try to pull together and improve.
Have you seen a change in him from '04 to now in how he approaches guys?
Nothing major. It sounds like this is one of the current thoughts right now going around. That was not one of my theories about what to work on. I'm working on a few of them, but not that one.
I don't know if there's been a more anonymous guy to start 40 games than Mike Jones. How has his progression gone?
It's gone well. Probably part of the reason it's been so quiet is that he's been quietly productive. It's not a glamorous position and he got thrown into the fire. I remember distinctly calling him on a Saturday night. He was at his grandmother's house. We tracked him down in Chicago during a bye week of 2003. It was A) Do you want to play? and then B) We're playing Ohio State this week. But that was his baptism to the thing and he's done a great job.
What's his comfort level at guard versus when you tried him out at tackle? Why didn't that work and why did guard seem to fit better?
It just seems to be his…I can't give you an explanation why it is, but I think it just seems where he's functioned the best. He's comfortable there. He's operated real efficiently at that position. We tried it. We weren't doing him a favor by doing that. So, we made some adjustments there.
Did you ever think about moving him back out there when you've had injuries?
Not really. Once we got through that window last year, the conclusion was that this is where he operates the best. Let's keep him there and we'll find other alternatives.
So, what was his response when you pulled the redshirt off at Ohio State?
He was great. We had been suggesting it prior to that. He was considering it. He was trying to protect that redshirt year. But that's when Brian's cartilage locked up. We were pretty much out of guys at that point. We needed help. It wasn't like he was going to be the sixth guy. He was in there and going to start. The good news is that he had Gallery on his left side. What he didn't want to do was burn a year playing like four snaps a game. I understand that totally.
What does the future hold for him?
Oh, he'll have opportunities, no question. He'll graduate in the spring and then it's going to be in his hands.
You mentioned him playing. Have you gotten enough out of Bowman to justify playing him right away?
I think so. He hasn't had a lot of snaps on the field. And that's one of the things we've discussed with the redshirt, anti redshirt thing. But I think the argument I would make there, and it's the same thing with AJ Edds, and he's been playing a little bit more, the benefits they've been able to gain from being in the two-deep and working, they're going to be much better players in the spring than they would have been playing in the scout team. So, I have thought about that one and I feel that it's going to be to his benefit.
Did the fact that you had such a big class of receivers coming in factor into it?
Yeah, that was part of it. I thought that we could afford maybe to stagger some guys and it would be OK.
You've tinkered with the kickoff guys the last couple of weeks. If Shonn is back is he back in that spot?
Probably not. I'm not sure that's a natural spot for him. I think we'll go with Damian and Dominique.